The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is just around the corner with the action set to kick off on November 21st at the Al Thumama Stadium when Senegal faces the Netherlands before the hosts take on Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium. With the biggest sporting tournament on earth fast approaching, it won’t be long now before we see just how well prepared each country is for the showcase event as fans start to dream of lifting the fabled FIFA World Cup trophy aloft come December 18th. The USMNT is no exception. Head coach Gregg Berhalter is in the midst of masterminding what will hopefully be a very successful tournament for the Stars and Stripes and will need key personnel to be at their very best if they’re to meet their own lofty ambitions this Winter. The task ahead of them is daunting and after finishing third in their CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers the question is just how far can this group of players hope to go?
U.S. face a battle to get out of the group
As much as the U.S. has ambitions of reaching the quarterfinals of the competition and beyond, nothing can happen in the knockout stage without first taking care of business in the group. The United States were drawn in a group alongside England, Iran and the UEFA playoff Path A winner, either Wales, Ukraine, or Scotland.
Gareth Southgate’s England are one of the favourites to win the World Cup, let alone the group, so even the most optimistic USMNT fan would have to admit walking out winners of the group would be an incredibly difficult task and monumental achievement. Berhalter and his squad will likely be eyeing up that second slot as their means of qualification into the knockout stages. The odds are in their favour and for anyone thinking the USMNT can secure qualification through to the knockout stages this year, why not use the best apps when betting on soccer? The U.S. sit 15th in the FIFA World Rankings with counterparts Iran six places below them in 21st while potential opponents Wales, Ukraine and Scotland also trail in 18th, 27th and 39th respectively. Furthermore, the U.S. have more experience at this tournament to draw on compared with their lower-ranked adversaries; which could prove crucial in the pressure cooker of a World Cup.
England are expected to qualify top of the table with a maximum haul of nine points well within the realm of possibility meaning the U.S. will likely require a minimum of four points to escape the group, with six points almost guaranteeing their slot in the next stage. With that in mind, the first match of Group B against the eventual UEFA playoff winners ultimately becomes a tournament-defining contest. The Star and Stripes will back themselves to get a result but a quick turnaround after the climax of the MLS season leaves them with very little time to prepare and could put them on the back foot. The players can ill-afford to underestimate anyone in this group either; Wales’ Gareth Bale is a different animal for his country, Ukraine will be emotionally-charged and raring to go in light of recent events, and Scotland have pulled off some stunning results in their eight match unbeaten run. Despite that, both games against Iran and the playoff qualifier are certainly winnable and the U.S. will be hopeful of securing victory in both. They will likely have to do just that to keep their World Cup dream alive.
What awaits should they reach the knockouts?
Should the United States successfully navigate their way through the group they will reach the business end of the tournament full of optimism given their favourable draw. Presuming a second-placed finish the U.S. would face the winners of Group A and with the hosts Qatar being the Pot 1 side in that group the U.S. would likely have an easier road to the quarter-finals. There are still plenty of top-quality sides in the group such as the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador but the importance of potentially avoiding a World Cup favourite cannot be understated.
This offers the USMNT arguably their greatest opportunity of a quarter-final berth for the best part of three decades but in order to accomplish this, key personnel will have to come to the fore. Berhalter’s side is stacked full of young talent that will no doubt excite fans on their World Cup journey and it will be down to them to ensure their passage into the latter stages. Chelsea star Christian Pulisic will be expected to play the main role having contributed 21 goals and nine assists over the course of his 48 appearances for his country. Youngster Gio Reyna will look to support Pulisic going forward as the creative spark in midfield; his international career is in its early stages but he is showing a lot of promise and already has five goal contributions in his 12 appearances for the U.S. There’s no question that they will be a threat going forward after having netted a total of 21 times in their qualification process to the World Cup but the pressure is on to deliver and if these two are not up to the challenge the Berhalter and his boys could be on an early flight back home.
Can the United States pull off the unthinkable?
It will not be easy but the World Cup group stage draw back in April should have USMNT fans daring to dream and full of excitement. This will be the 11th time the U.S. have featured on the global stage and it could yet be one of their best tournaments to date. The United States have only ever qualified for a World Cup quarter-final once in their history and this might just be their best chance to do it again. They are by no means favourites to do so but World Cups are famous for defying expectations; the motivation for the players will be clear, if Berhalter managed to lead his side as far as the last eight, anything could happen.